It’s been kind of an unbelievable week here in Kansas City. Not that all of you are even aware of the World Series (Kansas City is a rather small market.) But we have seen ourselves in the news all week, which is strange for a city that is located on the map in just the place to be usually hidden directly behind the weatherman’s butt.

Kansas City on the ‘Nets2014 World Series: Game 1 San Francisco Giants v. Kansas City Royals

Much of the conversation this week lingered around this Buzzfeed open letter to Kansas City from America, a letter so thoughtfully constructed, not to mention flattering, that it actually redeems Buzzfeed in my mind a bit. A day or two later, our mayor, Sly James (yes, Sly) responded with an open letter to America from Kansas City.

And then there was this gem, 13 reasons why the Kansas City Royals are the worst. It’s this kind of uninformed link bait garbage that reminds me why the internet can be the worst thing ever. Do you ever have one of those days when the lists start pulling you in, and when you escape their grasp, you realize how dirty and shameful you feel?

In My Blog Feed

Holy cow, my blog feed was chock full of goodies this week. Somehow, all of these people spoke to me.

Kristen Strong confronted my perceived and frustrate need for a bunch of friends (hint: you and I don’t need a bunch of friends.) Holley Gerth discussed being intimidated by other people and Ally Vesterfelt’s best life advice is making a fool of yourself.

One of the most distinctive pieces of advice this week came from Hannah Brencher. It is simply: stop sleeping with liars. It’s not what you think. I sleep with liars. The liars wake me up in the middle of the night. Read this one right now.

Tyler Braun is turning thirty and has thirty life lessons he has learned so far.

Caryn Rivadeneira at Her.meneutics has an interesting angle on why prayer does not need to “come back” to public schools and Micah Murray addresses the frequent church activity of throwing stones.

Finally, Sarah Bessey shares her flutters and faith as her journey through loss and childbirth gains a new little chapter.

And that is what fueled me this week. Have a great weekend!

 

For a long time, my wife and I kept our secret.PlusOrMinus_Revisions1_June9

We kept it from friends. We kept it from family. It seemed like the only thing we could do.

Our friends had their babies and we would say, “Congratuations!” We would go home and say “We are happy for our friends.” People would ask if we were going to have kids, and we would stammer out some kind of answer about “timing.”

Months and years passed like that. If you have ever kept a secret, you know how it is too.

But I have to say that I am truly amazed, surprised even. Plus or Minus will be released in just a few short months. And when we first discussed writing a book about infertility, it felt like we were going to be exposing all of these dark, terrible secrets. The opposite has in fact been true.

In the process of being vulnerable, we have been given a great gift: redemption from our secrets.

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It’s pretty easy to be pessimistic, isn’t it?

I have to believe that there have always been pessimists, and I have to admit that there are plenty of times when I feel like one too. It’s not hard to look at the way things are and despair. It’s practically my default sometimes.

I think there are also some things that make us more pessimistic than we are naturally inclined to be.

I think watching too much of the news makes us pessimists. Why? Because the news is not just a neutral thing. It’s a product. It’s a product that is designed to make us feel a certain way (anxious, depressed, pessimistic) and then desire something (more news.) Have you ever noticed how the news is like potato chips? It never really fills you up, but you keep thinking you want more?

I think politics has a way of making us pessimists too. I don’t think this election season is making optimists out of anyone. I don’t think anyone believes that we are all going to just fall in love with Congress after election day. Politics is a lot like the news. The more we have of it, the more sick we feel. And election time comes around and we think this time it will be different!

And in this era of pessimism, I am reminded of something that was said in a different era of news and politics. She was never an official politician, though she was certainly a national leader. Perhaps there have always been just as many things to be pessimistic about. But somehow, the people who change the world resist the despair of the present.

future

It is an amazing thing we have, this capacity to be endlessly optimistic, if we choose to be. But the beauty of the future will not come in the ways in which we are taught to believe. A beautiful future for you and I will not come through any politician we elect. It will not come through Congress. The beauty of you future will not come through a tech company, or anything else we can buy.

All of these things we look to and believe that this will finally satisfy and fulfill us. But they won’t. The only way that your future and my future are truly optimistic is that we actually listen to the still small voice, the dream, and we go. 

There are no substitutes.

I can’t even believe it.

If you want to know what it means for a town to lose its collective mind, send their long-losing baseball team to the World Series. Because that is what is happening here in Kansas City. And while it all still feels very precarious, the Royals have already made history, going 8-0 in the postseason. This is how people play when they literally have nothing to lose and no one expects anything of them. Maybe there is a lesson in there.

It was hard to not think about baseball this week, whether you’re a fan or not. Nevertheless, there was a lot of other good stuff that came across my radar.

On Plus or MinusPlusOrMinus_Revisions1_June9

My next book, Plus or Minus is one step closer to reality, with the editing process now underway. I am so thrilled to tell an editor that I trust him or her, and give them the reins to spill red ink all over my work. Plus or Minus is scheduled for release next February!

In My Blog Reader

Micha Boyett has long been a blogger for me to look up to, not for her tireless pursuit of faster blogging, list-making or social media domination, but more her refusal to try to be that kind of blogger. She reminds us that we are human first and writers second.

On a related note, Bonnie Gray writing at inCourage takes on the popular wisdom, that you are a brandEveryone thinks they have a “personal brand.” But is that brand really the most important piece of us?

Sarah Bessey writes a frank, yet sensitive post about using masculine pronouns for God, and I have to agree with everything she writes here. Finally, Tyler Braun takes on the perception that Millennials are notoriously uncommitted, flaky and unreliable.

That’s what fueled, entertained and challenged me this week!

Most businesses fail in the first five years.63399507023589182799

We know what failure means when it comes to business. It means that the business did not make enough money. It means that the owner could not feed his or her family. And beside the financial cost, there is probably a big emotional cost to a failed business as well. People pour their hearts into something that they hope will succeed and when it does not, it feels more like a personal failure.

But what does it mean for a church to fail?

This last week, I saw not one but two blogs about churches that “failed,” meaning they closed shop, went out of business, so to speak.

My heart went out to the authors, because I’ve been there. I’ve been a part of a church that ended. And it is heartbreaking.

But at the same time, I ask myself, what do we mean by a church failing? A church is not a business. A church is not a corporation. So what happens when we define a church in the terms of a business? What happens when we define “success” and “failure” the same way Wal-Mart defines those terms?

I have made a realization in the years since my own church failed. What happens is that the church has not failed. We have failed to define “church.”

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People are natural storytellers.

Stories are how we make sense of the world. Stories are how we make sense of ourselves and our past. Stories are how we identify our culture and identity.

It’s little wonder to me that so many people want to be storytellers. And there are a ton of people who can give advice, write blogs and books about how to be a storyteller. I have more than one book on my shelf, thank you.

I am convinced that as much as we want to be storytellers, most of us do not know how to tell stories. For as many stories as we have heard, we cannot tell them. Why?

Because we are not good at listening for stories.

We are not good at collecting stories.

Some people collect comic books or Star Wars toys. Others collect music or art. And some people collect stories.

And I think that is the key. Real storytellers know when a story is being told, even if no one else hears it. They know how to collect the stories that no one else is listening for. Most of us want to jump to the finish line and just be great storytellers. We want people to listen to us, as if we have the right to be listened to. But long before we become worthy of being listened to, we have to learn to listen.

Take one of my favorite short story authors, Eudora Welty. Her stories made it look easy. But no master artist, author or musician just skips to the finish line. There was a time when Welty shut her mouth, was not trying to be heard, and instead just listened.

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That listening may be the most important first step. And who knows how long she just listened. 

Our generation wants so badly to be seen and heard. But no one will feel seen and heard until they make other people seen and heard first.